- (Condition Change) Increased effective public leaders
75% of teen-teachers reported being physically active on 5 or more days while gaining confidence and leadership skills through innovative Healthy Choices in Motion programming in San Mateo County.
Increasing physical activity in San Mateo County is vital, as 67% of SNAP-Ed-eligible adults and 23% of SNAP-Ed-eligible children ages 12-17 were overweight or obese in 2019. Additionally, there is a lack of leadership opportunities for teens especially for those in remote school districts in their county.
How UC Delivers
CalFresh Healthy Living, University of California Cooperative Extension (CFHL, UCCE) in San Mateo County sought to address these issues with innovative teens-as-teachers programming in which older youth led younger youth in Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH) activities as part of a summer school program. Once a week teens would facilitate approximately 30 minutes of structured physical activity (PA) games that build PA engagement and skills.
While this creative approach was a hit with school teachers and students, CFHL, UCCE looked to further improve the project by increasing their teen-teachers' self-confidence as leaders, as well as their PA knowledge. In response, the UC Davis Center for Nutrition in Schools (CNS) and CFHL, UCCE collaborated to pilot the addition of Healthy Choices in Motion (HCIM) to this innovative teens-as-teachers project in the summer of 2019.
Led by UCCE San Mateo educator Marisela Ceron, five HCIM lessons were taught to increase the teen-teachers' PA knowledge and the understanding of the overall importance of PA before leading CATCH activities for younger youth. HCIM is one of the curricula featured as part of the Shaping Healthy Choices Program, a multi-component, evidence-based intervention that is implemented across California in partnership with CFHL, UCCE. This curriculum features lessons about the benefits of PA, the five components of physical fitness, recommendations across the lifespan, and why a variety of PA is important.
Through this novel programming, teen-teachers were able to gain teaching and leadership experience in their community, in addition to their own growth in the practice of PA and PA knowledge. To assess the success of the addition of HCIM to the existing CATCH teens-as-teachers program, PA knowledge questionnaires were administered before and after the HCIM lessons. Teen teacher surveys and a focus group were conducted near the project's end, after which teen teachers taught one additional CATCH acitivity lesson.The project spanned 1 month in Summer 2019.
Overall, the teen-teachers increased their physical activity and felt that they gained confidence and leadership and life skills. Upon completion of the HCIM lessons, teens significantly increased their PA knowledge (pre = 11.65 ± 2.9; post = 14.70 ± 3.1; p = .001). When asked about their own physical activity engagement in the teen teacher survey, 41.7% of teens that participated in the project reported being physically active for more than 60 minutes 5 days the previous week and 33.3% reported being active all 7 days.
With ample opportunities to gain involvement in leadership and teaching during this project, students were also asked to rate their level of agreement on statements related to engagement and experiences in the program on a four-point Likert scale. Some noteworthy results were: I am more confident in helping others (83.3%) and in myself overall (83.3%), I gained skills through serving my community that will help me in the future (83.3%), I can apply knowledge in ways that solve "real life" problems through community service (75%).
A focus group with the teen-teachers showed common themes and testimonials of enjoyment working with younger students and being more physically active (Table 2).
Being active in childhood is linked to being active as an adult, in addition to improving heart health, mood, sleep, and strengthening muscles and bones (2009 review, 2018 guidelines). In this way, CFHL, UCCE contributes to health for all and the public value of promoting healthy people and communities.
- Author: Marisa Neelon
- Co-PI: Charles Go
- Project 4-H20 Coordinator: Eli Figueroa
Project 4-H20 teen leaders' water promotion campaign at their Contra Costa high school resulted in 52% of students surveyed reporting drinking more water because of the campaign and school district board members deciding to help fund the efforts to promote healthy hydration.
Earlier work by Project 4-H20 teens found that average student water consumption at at John Swett High School in Contra Costa County was only 4.92 cups, less than the recommended 8 cups. Research shows that substituting zero calorie water in place of sugar sweetened beverages (SSB's) can help reduce weight gain ultimately reducing the risk of developing chronic disease. Improvements in water access supports healthy hydration and overall health, but education about the health benefits of drinking water, along with creative signage, is necessary to motivate students to continue to hydrate with water over sugar sweetened beverages.
How UC Delivers
Contra Costa County 4-H and Nutrition Family and Consumer Science (NFCS) Advisors and the CalFresh Healthy Living, UC project coordinator continued their collaboration using Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) methods and 4-H youth development practices to address the need for promotion of healthy hydration. Continuing the work of Project 4-H20 from the past two years, the project coordinator recruited five teens from the school to be our "partners" in the project. The teen researchers designed and evaluated a water promotion campaign at their high school. They created signage and produced engaging video clips featuring weekly messages promoting water consumption among their peers. To assess the effectiveness of their efforts, the teens designed and administered a student survey before and after the two-month campaign.
Forty-three percent or 220 students of the 512-member student body completed the pre-survey and 46% or 235 students completed the post survey. Students drank water more often during the campaign from the water refilling station as evidenced by their responses and the station water bottle counter. Also, 52% reported drinking more water because they were reminded by the campaign signage and messaging. The three most popular reminders were the posters, water drop floor stickers, and the videos featuring the weekly messages. Students commented that the weekly messages were funny, memorable, and made them think about the health benefits of drinking water.
The teen leaders presented their findings and recommendations to school district board members and received positive feedback and assurance that the board will help fund their efforts to promote healthy hydration. Reflecting on the project year, teen leaders reported that they learned research, teamwork, and communication skills. When asked how they plan to use what they learned, teen leaders shared that they will: “appl[y] my research/data collecting skills,” “b[e] more outspoken in my community,” “hel[p] make my community a better place," and “hel[p] lead the school by teaching about healthy lifestyles.”
Throughout the teen-led research project, the teens demonstrated skills as effective public leaders influencing the health of their school community. UC ANR's youth program equips the next generation for college, successful careers, and to be active participants in their communities, as research underscores the positive outcomes of such YPAR projects including leadership, academic, and career outcomes. In this way, UC ANR increases effective public leaders and contributes to the public value of developing a qualified workforce for California.
- Author: Marianne Bird
75% of 4-H teens who taught the Youth Experiences in Science Project to younger youth reported more confidence in public speaking and all felt they had made an important contribution to their community through the project.
In 2015, only 38% of 4th grade students in the U.S. scored at or above proficient in science. The gap in science literacy is especially prominent for youth of color. The need to improve scientific knowledge and critical thinking is pressing as these young people are the decision-makers and problem-solvers of tomorrow.
California communities also need active, involved citizens of all ages. Through service-learning projects, youth see themselves as leaders, learn to appreciate the value of contributing to their communities, and strengthen their skills for the workforce. The future of our workforce, and our communities, depends on a science literate and engaged citizenry.
How UC Delivers
During the 2018-19 school year, 17 teenagers delivered the 4-H Youth Experiences in Science Project (YES Project) to 334 five to eight year-olds attending afterschool or summer programs in Sacramento. The 4-H YES Project, created by UC ANR through a National Science Foundation grant, is a teen-led curriculum designed to engage younger youth in inquiry and discovery. It is both a science education program for children and a service-learning opportunity for teenagers.
After attending 10 hours of training and equipped with science kits and enthusiasm, teen volunteers led weekly science sessions to encourage children to ask questions and seek answers through observation and experimentation. Utilizing bubbles, snails, worms, and recyclables, teenagers averaged two hours a week working in teams with peers and an adult coach to organize and deliver their lessons. They committed to one semester (though many volunteered for a year or more) and taught at nine sites, all in schools where at least 50% of students qualified for free or reduced lunches. Sixty-five percent of youth who participated were African American or Hispanic.
The program encourages problem-solving and an interest in science. For teens, it provides new experiences, a chance to make a real difference in their communities, and opportunities to explore potential career choices.
Feedback from teens and their coaches indicate that young program participants look forward to the YES Project. “The kids get so excited when they see us,” said one teen when asked about her favorite part of the program, “and that's so sweet!” In addition, as a result of their YES experience, 75% of teens reported feeling more confident in public speaking and 66% said they had improved their planning skills. All reported feeling as though they had made an important contribution to their community.
Research shows that such civic engagement for teenagers is positively associated with gains in education attainment and income. It also suggests that “among youth, volunteering plays a valuable role in shaping how youth learn to interact with their community and develop the skills, values and sense of empowerment necessary to become active citizens.” In this way, UC ANR increases effective public leaders and civic engagement, contributing to the public value of developing a qualified workforce for California.